REVIEW: Dean Vendetta XM review – a great, cheap electric guitar?

Shane tried out the Dean Vendetta XM electric guitar, available from the Fret Zealot store with the Fret Zealot system installed. 

Here’s what he thought: 

“This is a sweet electric guitar from the Dean Vendetta line. There are two different versions to choose from – the Tremolo, which includes the whammy bar, and then the hardtail version. Both come in the natural satin finish – it’s got a deep red look to it and is very stylish, as well as the black hardware throughout. It’s definitely got a rocker vibe to it and I’m really enjoying the playability as well. Everything down to the dome knobs with the knurling on the side. That’s a nice touch in my opinion. It’s outfitted with two Dean humbucking pickups and a three-way selector for your bridge. The body is made of poplar, the neck is maple on the back with a black walnut top and a black headstock with a neat, finished look and a bit of curvature on it, with the Dean logo wings and “Vendetta” written across the top. The black hardware on the top as well gives it a really nice look.

This guitar speaks to my inner rock/metalhead. I think it will serve you well in a variety of genres, but you’re gonna get that humbucking pickup sound, so it’ll be a little thicker. It’s definitely something I think is across the board designed as a rock instrument, all the way up to having 24 frets on the guitar, so you get two octaves of playing on each string, and the various little features. The cutaways are very comfortable, suited more to performance playing, which I’m really enjoying. Regardless of your level of playing, I think this guitar is going to do well if you’re looking for an instrument that performs well, and a rock instrument, and a lower price range. This guitar comes at a very affordable price for the different features we see across it. Having 24 frets is awesome, I’m really enjoying the sound, the hardware, as well as just the feel when you’re in the upper frets. There are some nice contours on the instrument that make it easier to play. Definitely comfortable, easy to play, not quite the thin-style neck some people might anticipate on a shred guitar. These pickups sound really good, I’m really enjoying the two different tones I get from each one. The sound is typical of what you expect from humbucking pickups like this.

The Fret Zealot store has both styles available. This is the XMT, the other option is the hardtail version with the string-through design. That’s a good option for those who aren’t keen on the whammy bar and want more tuning stability. It will give you less room for the tuning to move around and more stability for your playing. It’s also a pretty common for people who want to do drop tuning.

If you buy the Dean Vendetta in the Fret Zealot store, it comes with the LEDs already installed, so you can get right into learning your favorite songs.”

Looking for an acoustic? Check out our review of the Yamaha FG800.

Chatting with Jess Novak

Jess Novak, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based singer/songwriter who heads up pop-rock-soul outfit Jess Novak Band, has had her music played on radio stations across the country. She recently partnered up with Fret Zealot to teach her original songs to users. 

Find the lesson for “Lucienne” here!

We sat down with Jess to talk about making it as a musician, her influences, and more.

How long have you been playing music?

I started playing the violin when I was 7, so a very long time. I started playing professionally in a band ten years ago, in 2012. 

 

What instruments do you play?

Violin, guitar, piano. It depends. I always have the guitar and violin. Piano depends on space. When I’m solo or in a duo, I use foot percussion to keep the beat. 

 

Where do you play?

We’re all over the place. I’ve toured the whole country. The band has been to Key West and back. We play mostly New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, occasionally Florida, or I’ll travel elsewhere. I do solo as well. Solo is more versatile. The band is more original music. The solo act I play whatever people are asking for so it varies a little more.

 

What would you consider the sound of the band?

I always call it pop/rock/soul – think of it like Tedeschi Trucks Band, big fat sound, kind of classic sounding. 

 

How many people are in the band? 

We vary in that too. The band can be as small as a trio – we’re usually a four piece, we can add a trumpet player, backup keys and if we want, additional vocalists. We’ve had a lot of guests sing on our albums. 

 

Your new album came out in November – how would you describe it?

This one was more collaborative than in the past. A lot of the time I write all my songs, bring them to the band and we go do them. This one, I gave the guys the songs and everyone really changed them and added to them and some of them changed completely. This one sounds even more diverse, it has more influences in it. It’s a lot of super soulful and the lyrics are more mature. I would call it more of an adult album. 

 

Who are your musical influences?

My brother is ten years older than me and he’s a bass player. When I was a kid, he introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Cream,  Kool and the Gang, Lenny Kravitz. I was super influenced by classic rock and that’s what made me want to play. When I was a kid, I told my mom I wanted to play the violin like Jimi Hendrix. When I got older, I loved 90s band like No Doubt. Then I found Nikka Costa as well. I love powerful female singer/songwriters. Nikka Costa and Gwen Stefani were my favorites – they’re so wild and energetic and you can feel it and see it when they perform. I feel like that was a huge influence on me. 

PHOTO: @jessrock87 IG

 

It’s weird because when I say No Doubt – “ I don’t think anyone has ever heard us and thought “you’re like No Doubt”. But lyrically, I’m a lot like Gwen Stefani. I put it all out here and am very honest and straightforward in performing. Usually we don’t do pop punk or ska, but consistently the biggest comment I get is “you’re so energetic and so happy!” That’s like her. She is so emotive on stage. I did absorb a lot of that. 

 

How did you get started playing music professionally?

I like to tell people, ten years ago when I started doing this, I didn’t think I could do this. I never dreamed I actually could. I wanted to do this my whole life, but as a kid, I was in orchestra and stuff, and I was never first chair. I went to school for public relations and journalism and got my Masters in music journalism. I specifically thought that if I can’t play music, I’ll just be around it. I loved writing about musicians. I was a full-time music editor/journalist, plus a radio DJ and I was also bartending. You just don’t make a lot of money in those positions.  I was really burning out. 

There was one day in particular that I did an interview with a blues singer. I was excited because she was a female, and 99.9 percent of people I interviewed for that job were men. I said, “tell me about writing this album, and how it was for you”. And she said “I didn’t write any of the songs – I get them, because they’re how I feel, but I didn’t write them.” 

And I thought, if you won’t do it, I will. I quit my job, went on a crazy cross-country trip, came back with a band called Sophistafunk, and I just thought, if they can do it, then I can do it. I didn’t come back with a plan, I just came back with the idea that I’m going to just play music. And if no one likes it, maybe I’ll stop. But maybe they will like it. 

I like to remind people, I’m not famous or anything, but I make a living playing music and teaching lessons and doing fun things like this. I want people to know whatever you want to do – play guitar around a campfire or start a business – you can do it. There are people everywhere that are proof of that. 

PHOTO: @jessrock87 IG

 

What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into guitar but doesn’t know where to start? 

That was me! I bought a guitar when I was 16 and didn’t start playing it until I was in my 20s. 

It’s hard! I would say get the guitar, and don’t get frustrated. It’s really hard to start. Totally different muscles and movements and memorization – not just muscle memory but thinking memory. Don’t be afraid to start and know it’s going to be hard but within a month, you can learn songs. There are plenty of Bob Dylan songs that are three chords, super simple and you can get by and impress people. It’s fun once you get past those first hurdles. 

 

What do you think of the Fret Zealot system?

Their system makes complete sense. It probably would have changed my life if I used it when I was a kid, first learning. I teach a lot of lessons and that’s the hardest thing when you try to explain a chord for example – “put your first finger on the first fret of the B string” –  by the time you’re done, they’re like “what?”. Rather than looking at someone’s hand across from you, to just see it on your fretboard  is so much easier. 

 

What are some of the challenges your students face? 

A lot of it is frustration. For example, they’ll listen to a Chris Stapleton song, and I’ll ask “so what do you hear him doing?” and they’ll say “he’s just a good singer/guitar player”. And it’s like, yeah he is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do that, you just have to work at it. Figure out what he’s doing, and figure out how to do it yourself. That’s one of the biggest frustrations or hurdles for kids especially, but adults too. 

A lot of people, especially kids, have this idea like “I can’t sing” and it gets reinforced by someone or something, like if they don’t make the musical or don’t get a solo. Whatever it is, they think “it’s just not an option for me”, and that’s just not true.

 

What’s your favorite guitar right now?

I bought a white Rancher Falcon Gretsch just over a year ago. It’s huge, it looks funny on me since it’s so big. I love that big deep sound – it’s white and gold, super flashy. If you’re going to have a guitar and be on stage and wear it, it should look great. 

 

You can find Jess Novak Band’s music on Spotify, AmazoniTunesApple Music, CDbaby and more. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok

 

REVIEW: The Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitar is one of the best beginner guitars of 2022

Shane tried out the Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitar, available from the Fret Zealot store with the Fret Zealot system installed. 

Here’s what he thought: 

Yamaha FG800 Review! One of the Best Beginner Guitars of 2022?

“This is a favorite of mine from the Yamaha guitar line, a standard in the industry and an awesome all-around acoustic guitar. 

It comes in a natural finish and it has a nice-looking piece of wood on top with a tortoiseshell pickguard – a classic look, kind of reminds me of some of the Taylor guitar aesthetics. 

On the back of the guitar, you have a nice satin finish that makes for a nice comfortable feel on the neck, for your hand while you’re playing. I like the not-too-glossy smoothness on the back of the neck of the guitar, compared to the glossier finish on the rest of the body. Some special attention was put to the feel of the neck for the guitar-playing hand .

The fretwork along the guitar is really nice and that’s what  sort of defines the Yamaha FG800 to me – just the consistency, the quality throughout the different models. I’ve personally handled hundreds of this exact model and seen that they all play really nicely and Yamaha does a really good job of quality-controlling this instrument to make sure each one plays really well. The action is nice and comfortable, the neck is very easy to play.

 

 I’m finding this guitar really fun and responsive – it’s got a nice bright sound. I would definitely say this particular guitar is a slightly brighter-sounding guitar. It could be something to do with the strings, but it’s generally a bright tone. 

The headstock is painted with a darker-looking finish to give you a nicer contrast and there’s chrome hardware on the tuners. The tuners have a very solid feeling – I think the guitar stays in tune nicely. What I really enjoy about this guitar is just the consistent playability and how easy it is to pick it up and get on with a new song. 

It has a full-sized guitar body but it doesn’t feel overly big or anything. If you’re concerned about the size of your guitar, I’d say this is a comfortable shape with a nice, full sound coming from the 

Dreadnought-style FG800 guitar body. Yamaha makes it really simple with the FG800 –  just a straight-up, all-around acoustic guitar experience. I’m finding it really comfortable to play, and once again, that Yamaha consistency means I know what I’m going to get when I purchase it. 

MORE: Fret Zealot Acoustic Combo Packs 

That makes it a really fun guitar to play. I’m really enjoying the action and the feel. I imagine myself taking this guitar through its paces at home, learning a lot of different songs and I also imagine being able to take this to a gig where you’re not going to need an amp but it has the enunciation and projection to give you what you need at the coffee shop or small gig if you’re just getting started playing. Personally, if i were to look for a new acoustic guitar in this budget range, this would be one I’m considering because of what you get for the money. I think Yamaha puts as much detail and attention as possible into making this guitar feel and look and sound really great for the price you’re paying, and they’ve done a really good job of that. 

I also enjoy the shape of the neck – it’s a bit of a thinner profile so it doesn’t have as much of that thickness in the neck. Some people have preferences for more material in the neck, or not. I kind of enjoy both – this guitar is kind of giving you more of the slimmed-down neck profile – not super thin, but it definitely helps the playability and the sort of ease of play and for pushing your limits as a guitar player. 

This guitar is going to be very accommodating for trying to learn new songs, or learning for the first time as well. For players who want to have the comfort and the responsiveness of a thinner profile neck, you’re going to have that kind of playing experience with this guitar.”

Fret Zealot + Yamaha FG800 Dreadnought | Natural

In honor of Earth Day, here are some songs about environmentalism

April 22 is Earth Day. The annual event has been held since 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. You can find Earth Day events in your area by clicking here.

Environmentalism – or just appreciation for nature – is a theme that’s expressed in lots of popular songs.  

Here’s a list of some environmentalism-themed songs in honor of Earth Day. 

 

John Denver – “Sunshine on my Shoulders” 

Denver – aka Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.- was one of the U.S’s best-selling artists of the 1970s. His songs frequently expressed a love of nature. “Sunshine”, which went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, was inspired by a desire for spring. “I wrote the song in Minnesota at the time I call ‘late winter, early spring’. It was a dreary day, gray and slushy. The snow was melting and it was too cold to go outside and have fun, but God, you’re ready for spring,” Denver said of the song. “You want to get outdoors again and you’re waiting for that sun to shine, and you remember how sometimes just the sun itself can make you feel good. And in that very melancholy frame of mind I wrote ‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’.”

You can learn “Sunshine on my Shoulders” in the Fret Zealot app here.

Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi” 

It’s been since covered by Amy Grant and The Counting Crows with Vanessa Carlton, but this 1970 was inspired by the singer-songwriter’s first trip to Hawaii. Mitchell told The Los Angeles Times in 1996: “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart […] this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.” 

The Beach Boys – “Don’t Go Near the Water” 

The pioneers of the California sound have lots of songs that reference the ocean, but 1971’s “Don’t Go Near the Water” puts an environmentally-concerned spin on the theme, with lyrics like “Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams/Have all been touched by man/The poison floating out to sea/Now threatens life on land”. 

Johnny Cash – “Don’t Go Near the Water” 

The Man in Black had a track with the same name three years later on his 1974 album Ragged Old Flag. In the song, the narrator laments the pollution of natural waterways and tells his son that they can no longer eat the fish they catch from a stream. 

Marvin Gaye – “Mercy Mercy Me” (The Ecology) 

“Things ain’t what they used to be/Where did all the blue skies go?/Poison is the wind that blows/From the north and south and east”, Gaye sang on this 1971 track.  The song came from Gaye’s concept album What’s Going On, which tells a narrative from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran and explores poverty, drug abuse, and war.

Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”

Ending the list on a positive note is American jazz great Louis Armstrong’s 1967 single, which includes the lyrics “I see trees of green/Red roses too/I see them bloom/For me and you/And I think to myself/What a wonderful world”. Armstrong recorded the track overnight following a midnight show in Las Vegas, wrapping around 6 a.m. 

You can learn “What a Wonderful World” on the Fret Zealot app.

How to protect your hearing while playing music

When you’re ripping away at a new song, either by yourself or with a band, it can be tempting to crank the sound on your amplifier all the way up! 

However, even if the music doesn’t feel too loud, it can still be damaging to your hearing. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that noise exposure not be over 85 dB(A) averaged over a daily eight-hour work shift. Most musicians don’t play that long per day – however, the louder the noise, the sooner it can harm hearing. 

“For instance, musicians who practice or perform at an average sound level of 94 dB(A) would begin to be at risk after only about an hour,” NIOSH says. 

Noise levels above 85 dBa can come from unexpected places. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, an example of 85 dBa is a busy school cafeteria or heavy city traffic. The average dBa of a subway platform is 95 dBa, personal listening devices at max volume can be 105 dBa, and a rock concert or a symphony orchestra is 110 dBa. 

A German study from 2014 found that professional musicians are four times more likely than non-musicians to report noise-induced hearing loss. 

Luckily, there are ways to protect your hearing while practicing or performing. 

You can use a dB meter during practice sessions to monitor the sound levels around you. You can find some apps that do this via a Smartphone. 

Get in the habit of using earplugs in loud environments – not just music venues, but also while using power tools or lawn mowers. You can buy disposable ear plugs at most drugstores. You can also buy reusable earplugs that are made of silicone or plastic, or get a pair of custom-fitted earplugs for the best results. Make sure they seal well in your ears! 

You can also get external ear protection (that looks like earmuffs) that goes on top of your ears. 

If you suspect that you might have noise-induced hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist for an evaluation. 

Songs you can play with just three chords

You don’t have to be an expert musician to break out a guitar at your next spring barbecue or house party! Many popular songs are built of three simple chords (or can be played with only three chords). Mastering a few chords will put dozens of sing-along worthy tunes in your arsenal. 

Here is a partial list of three-song chords: 

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

G  Cadd9  D 

One of the most well-known three chord songs on our list, this song can also be played with F – but only in the fourth verse! 

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash 

G  C  D 

One of The Man in Black’s biggest hits only calls for three simple chords! 

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival  

D   A  G 

This catchy track was CCR’s lead single from their album “Green River”. It was released in 1969. 

Wild Thing – The Troggs 

A   D  E 

Did you know this early rock & roll hit was originally recorded by American rock band The Wild Ones before being recorded by English band The Troggs? The Troggs’ version hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Lean On Me – Bill Withers 

A   D   E 

This classic soul song is ranked number 208 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s one of nine songs to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with versions recorded by two different artists.

Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver 

G    D    C

This track was originally included on the singer-songwriter’s debut demo, named “Babe I Hate to Go. His producer convinced him to change the title to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1967, a year later. 

What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes 

G  Am C 

Use a capo on the second fret to play this ‘90s era hit. 

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley 

A  D  E 

This well-known song is sometimes thought to be called “Don’t Worry About a Thing” or “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right”, because those phrases are frequently repeated. 

Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen 

A  D   E 

The baseball-themed video for this song was a mainstay of MTV during the 1980s. 

The Joker – Steve Miller Band

G, Cadd9, Dsus4

After topping the Billboard 100 in 1974, this track returned to the top of the charts in the U.K. in 1990 after being featured in a Levi’s commercial! 

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers 

D  G A 

Kenny Rogers’ version of this song was a No. 1 country hit. 

Stay with Me – Sam Smith 

Am F  C

According to interviews, this breakthrough track from English singer/songwriter Sam Smith’s debut album was written with the help of two other songwriters from three simple piano chords. 

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol 

A  D  E 

Northern-Irish/Scottish band Snow Patrol had “Chasing Cars” as a big hit in the U.S. after it was used in finale episodes of “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy” within a few weeks. 

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty 

Capo 3 

D  G  Asus 

In 2016, Petty told Billboard.com that he originally wrote his highest-charting Hot 100 song to amuse producer Jeff Lynne. 

All the Small Things – Blink 182 

C  F  G 

It only takes three chords to play Blink 182’s most successful single of all time!

You can find all of the chords you need in the Fret Zealot app! Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, watch lessons online, and start playing today.

Meet the Fret Zealot team!

The Fret Zealot team is dedicated to creating new advancements in music education technology. We also are guitarists ourselves! 

Here’s some information about us:

Shaun Masavage, CEO

Q: How long have you played guitar?

A: 15 years (only a few spent making any progress)

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I had a fascination with the creativity of the instrument, artists, and industry. Nobody in my family played it, but it always inspired me. I was jealous seeing people be able to pick up guitars, jam, and create a bond with someone instantaneously through it.

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I’m a technical person, both literally (engineer) and figuratively (very detail oriented). Music is built upon explicit rules, which appeals to my technical side, but allows for inexhaustible creativity. Layers and layers of ideas, adding in additional players and elements, it’s a wonderful tool for personal fulfillment for life. Even that isn’t just limited to one’s self, but opens up a new way to communicate with so many others, even transcending language and culture barriers.

 

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. I have very diverse interests. I lean towards punk rock on guitar and classical on ukulele. For reasons I can’t clearly articulate, my favorites (not necessarily most played) are: Jimi Hendrix, Dave Grohl, Tom Morello.

John Tolly, CTO

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. I picked up my first bass guitar when I was 13, so 20 years! (in some capacity or another)

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. My parents are both musicians, but I didn’t really know this growing up. There was always this dusty closet in our basement filled with big cases, and it was the ideal hide-and-seek spot. One day I decided to open one of the cases, and found a 1980 Fender Precision Bass. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I tried to play, my parents got me a few lessons and books, and it became a hobby of mine through high school, playing lots of tabs, but never really getting a handle on the theory all too well. Since then, my parents have gotten back into music as the kids have grown up, and now have their own band! 

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. As Shaun knows, I have an internal soundtrack in my head, so I feel like I’m always listening to something, which helps me focus. (however since becoming a parent, a lot of the tracks have been replaced with ‘baby shark’ and the Moana soundtrack on repeat). Music is one of those things that can instantly bring back up memories (Good or bad), but itself is timeless. Who doesn’t enjoy a good groove,. and a song written 50 years ago can be scarily applicable to current events or feelings.

Q, Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. The True Loves, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd (I tried to pick one in different genres, but not possible for me to pick a favorite between Zepp and Pink Floyd)

Alex Zorychta, head of product 

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. Since I was 14. 

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I started learning violin in school and realized I didn’t like any of the music for the violin, but I loved the stringed instrument. I switched over to guitar and never looked back!

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I’m all about real, authentic connections between people. Music is a universal language that allows any two people to communicate much more than words. My favorite pieces of music are those that capture an exact specific feeling, and when you find one that resonates with you where you are right now, it can help you feel that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling– either happy or sad! The immortal pieces of music are those that actually offer different specific feelings depending on when you listen to them, especially changing meaning as you grow older.

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional, Eric Clapton. 

Kaley Lynch, creative content producer

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. I’ve been playing since I was 12. 

Q.  What got you into guitar?

A. Growing up, most of my family played guitar or were musical in general. My grandfather always had a few acoustics around the house, so I was captivated by the sound since I was little. When I was in middle school, I started listening to music on my own (rock and alternative) for the first time, and wanted to play the type of music I heard. I also started writing songs a little before that, and I wanted to learn an instrument to help bring them to life. 

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. Music is something that transcends all differences. It can help transport you back to certain times in your life and connect you to new people. I’m currently in two bands – a cover band and an original band – and playing music is my creative outlet and stress relief. There’s nothing like playing a song you wrote to an audience and having them respond to it. 

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Vampire Weekend, Beach Bunny, and Rilo Kiley. Both their lyrics and melodies tackle complex themes in a beautiful way. 

 

Shane Nolan, operations manager 

 

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. 15 years

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I was inspired by the ‘School of Rock’ movie with Jack Black.

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I have always been inspired by the great music we get to hear, which has extended to finding great satisfaction in playing/ creating my own music and even music products.

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Green Day, White Stripes/ Jack White , Jimi Hendrix.

 

 

Talking guitar with Tigress

After COVID-19 shutdowns caused live music to grind to a halt over the past two years, British rock band Tigress is ready to pounce on their upcoming tour dates. 

 

The five-piece band has shows lined up through the spring and summer in the United Kingdom, and will join Billy Talent for their U.K. tour dates. 

 

Fret Zealot has teamed up with Tigress to bring lessons to their songs “Choke”, “Disconnect”, and “Alive” to the app. Check them out here! 

 

We recently caught up with guitarists Tom Harrison and Sean Bishop to talk about the return of live shows, their debut album Pura Vida, their musical influences, and more. 

 

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A post shared by TIGRESS (@wearetigress)

Q: How did Tigress form? 

Harrison: Sean and Katy (lead singer Katy Jackson) formed it. 

Bishop: Music college was where we met. I was studying the guitar. Most people go to university to do business studies or chem, but we went for guitar. When we were there, we met some people and formed this band. We met Tom there. 

Harrison: I was hanging out with the big boys [laughs]. 

Bishop: We did the Red Bull Bedroom Jam [they were finalists for the contest in 2011] which got us to play a bunch of festivals. 

Harrison: In 2015, we rebranded and reformed as Tigress and it’s gone from there. The album [Pura Vida] has cemented our style. It’s taken a few EPs to get there. Our album just came out with “Choke” and “Disconnect” on, that’s really who we are. Very guitar-driven, riffs all over the place, filthy riffs with some catchy vocals and 90s vibes. 

 

 

Q: Your debut album Pura Vida came out in Sept. 2021. Who were the influences on that album?

Harrison: I definitely have got a lot of 90s grunge influences. Billy Talent is my favorite band, and anything with drop-D riffs. I love that tuning. 

Bishop: We’re influenced by a lot of bands who were big in the 90s, early 2000s-era. I’m influenced by Radiohead quite a lot. Katy is influenced by Alanis Morrissette, our drummer Josh is influenced by Incubus and Linkin Park and Travis Barker. 

Harrison: Sean’s got on his Manson guitar, a Fuzz Factory pedal built it. It’s very “Muse”. We implement that in a lot of our music as well. 

Q. How long have you both been playing guitar?

Harrison: I started when I was 12. I really liked bands like The Offspring – they were one of the first bands I heard on the radio that had guitar-driven punk music. I liked Nirvana as well. It’s so long ago now that it’s hard to pinpoint the moment I wanted to pick it up. There was always a guitar lying around the house that I would pick up. My mom showed me the open chords. 

Bishop: I was listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana and those bands and I just wanted to play the riffs I was listening to. I think originally I wanted to play the bass and I told my mom and she got me a guitar by mistake. I wanted to be a bass player but I ended up on the guitar. But ‘m not complaining. I didn’t grow up around music, my family isn’t musical. I thought what I was hearing was the bass. I just wanted to play “Californication”. There’s an acoustic song off “One Hot Minute”, “My Friends” – that was one of the first songs I learned. 

 

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start playing guitar?

Bishop:  Just play the songs you like listening to. 

Harrison: It gives you incentive then, to pick it up. 

Bishop: I just used to put the track on, turn it up and turn the amp up and try to play along and just rock out in my bedroom. Go on the Internet and look up the tabs. You need to learn how to read tabs. 

Harrison: You’ve got to be patient. Everyone wants instant gratification, but you’ve got to prolong your gratification and you’ll get there. 

Bishop: Practice should be fun. Playing along to things helps with your timing. The worst thing is learning to play without another instrument. Music is about performing with other people and how you interact with other people and stuff. It’s part of the experience.You need to sort of immerse yourself in the music. Always play through an amp – turn it up. 

Harrison:  Crank it, get a good tone out your amp because it’s fun then. 

Q. You guys have playthrough videos on your social media pages – what inspired you to do them? 

Harrison: It was just to kind of have more things with the single being released at the time. We did a load of silly things like “guess the lyrics to the song”. Because we’re really into guitar, we thought it was a good way to push the song, and hopefully have people create videos to share the song and have it push on even further. You guys discovered us through the playthrough videos, so that was a great positive. 

 

Q. How was it as a band going through lockdown?

Bishop: We both still have barely played since it happened. Nothing on the scale of what we were doing before it all closed down. I think we were quite lucky in a sense that we just finished recording the album when the lockdown came. We finished recording and a couple weeks later, it was like “that’s it, you’re not able to leave your home”. We had all this material ready to be worked on. It was weird. 

Harrison: It was really weird. We were able to mix and master the album over lockdown. 

Bishop: We did a few streaming concerts where we recorded our own parts in our bedrooms, and put them together on a split stream. We also did a headline gig at a real venue. This recording crew came in to stream it. It was like playing a gig to an empty room.

Harrison:  There were loads of comments in the chat but because our playing the gig you can’t interact with them live. 

Bishop: We’ve got some cool shows coming up for the summer so hopefully we’ll be able to get back in the swing of things. 

 

Q. What do you think of the Fret Zealot system?

Harrison: I think it adds an interactive element in a really unique way. Everyone goes on YouTube when they’re first learning guitar, but this is like adding Guitar Hero to a real guitar. Guitar Hero was legendary, so much fun. 

Bishop: It’s going to build up your muscle memory much quicker, because you can just see it. 

Harrison: You have to see how quickly your fingers have to move. I don’t think people realize how quickly your fingers need to move from chord to chord but when the lights move, you can see “I’m really lagging behind”. I think it’s going to be a game changer. Both me and Sean are guitar teachers as well, and I literally could have this in my guitar lessons and say “why don’t you check this out” to my students. Load up a song on the database and see how they get on. 

Q. What is your favorite guitar right now?

Bishop: During lockdown, I got myself a 1960s reissue Stratocaster in shell pink with a mint green pickguard. It’s really nice – it’s like my baby. I’ve tried to simplify my kit lately – I’m not using a giant pedalboard at the moment. I don’t think I’d end up taking the strat on tour, I’ll probably take the Manson with the built-in pedal. 

Harrison: I also have a Fender Strat, it’s a HSS Strat so it’s got a Humbucker in the bridge. It’s my favorite guitar I own. 

You can follow Tigress on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for their latest updates.

Check out Tigress’ song lessons on Fret Zealot here! 

The health benefits of playing guitar

Whether you’re picking up a guitar for the first time or just practicing your craft, you’re not just improving your musical prowess – you’re also taking steps toward better health! 

Many scientific studies have found physical health benefits correspond with playing guitar or just being around music in general. 

Similar benefits to physical exercise

Hitting the gym is great for your health – and so is hitting your instrument! 

A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that active music-making has training effects similar to those from physical exercise training. Researchers compared two groups of healthy people between ages 18 and 30, about half of whom were music students. They were tested for resting heart rate and blood pressure and baroreflex sensitivity. The study found that blood pressure was “significantly” lower in the group of music students, and they also tended to have a lower heart rate than the non-musicians. 

“Our study opens a new perspective, in which active music making, additionally to being an artistic activity, renders concrete health benefits for the musician,” the researchers wrote.

Master the pentatonic shapes  with this guitar gym class!

Pain relief

A study from the University of Utah Pain Research Center found that engaging activities – like listening to music – can help reduce pain in people with high levels of anxiety who can become easily absorbed in activities. The researchers hypothesized that music can help divert cognitive focus from pain. 

The researchers conducted the study on 143 people who listened to songs and were asked to identify wrong notes, while also getting shocked by fingertip electrodes. 

“Music helps reduce pain by activating sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways, stimulating emotional responses, and engaging cognitive attention. Music, therefore, provided meaningful intellectual and emotional engagement to help reduce pain,” the study concluded. 

Keeping the mind sharp

Learning a musical instrument as a child can help safeguard against cognitive decline in old age. A study by the Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology found that in a group of adults aged 60 to 80, those who played an instrument for at least ten years during their lives performed better on several cognitive tests than those who had never learned an instrument or how to read music. None of the subjects were professional musicians. 

“The study confirms that musical activity preserves cognition as we age, by comparing variability in cognitive outcomes of older adults active in musical instrumental and other leisure activities,”  said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy.

Even if you’re older, there are benefits to learning an instrument. 

Try relaxing with the Musical Meditations Course!

Stress relief

We can all use a little stress relief in our lives! A study published by the International Journal of Music Education found that college students who spent 30 minutes either playing the piano, molding clay or doing calligraphy had “markedly” decreased cortisol levels, indicating a reduction in stress. Students in the group that played piano had significantly greater results than the students who had clay or calligraphy as their creative activity! 

Find some “peace of mind” by trying our song lesson on Boston’s Peace of Mind here! 

You can start learning guitar today with  Fret Zealot. Choose from thousands of video lessons, over 80,000 song tracks, 10,000 chords, and more. 

You can download the Fret Zealot app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, watch lessons online, and start playing today! 

Pi Day and the relationship between music and math

March 14 (3/14) is Pi Day! 

The holiday celebrates mathematical constant “pi” (π), which is one of the oldest and best-recognized mathematical constants in the world. Pi is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter, and it’s valued approximately to 3.14159265 – although its actual digits after the decimal point are infinite. 

To celebrate Pi Day, Fret Zealot is allowing you to “Play through Pi” in the Fret Zealot app. We created a song that maps the C major scale to the first 31 of the digits of Pi. You can find it in the Fret Zealot app under the artist “The Constants”. 


Here’s how you can find your birthday or any number in pi!

Music and math might not seem like they have much in common – but there’s a lot of overlap between the two studies.

 

“Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light.”

Claude Debussy

Reading music

“Music Sheet Photo” by Aleksander%20D%u0119bowski is marked with CC0 1.0.

Each piece of music has a time signature, which looks like a fraction. The time signature shows the rhythm – how many beats are in each measure. Musical notes are also assigned a value, including quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. To read sheet music, you have to know how long to hold each note – which requires math!

Frequency

Why does a ukulele sound higher than a guitar? Why do you play higher notes on a guitar closer to the body?

“File:Pythagoras (titel op object) Lycurgus en Pythagoras (serietitel), RP-P-1964-2902.jpg” by Rijksmuseum is marked with CC0 1.0.

It’s because the pitch of a vibrating string is proportional to its length, and the pitch can be controlled by the length – getting higher as the string gets shorter. 

Greek philosopher Pythagoras studied this phenomenon around 500 B.C on lyres, Greek stringed instruments. He found that a string exactly half the length of another string will have a much higher pitch, but they sound constant when played together, an interval called an octave. 

Patterns

What do the Fibonacci sequence and “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynrd have in common?

They both follow patterns, which are a common occurrence in both mathematics and music. 

(Most) music has repeating patterns in choruses, verses, chords, and riffs. Numerical patterns are sequences of numbers created based on formulas or rules. These types of patterns can be seen in nature, architecture, and everyday objects! 

You can start your musical journey with Fret Zealot. Users can choose from thousands of video lessons, over 80,000 song tracks, 10,000 chords, and more. 

You can download the Fret Zealot app from the Apple or Android store, watch lessons online, and start playing today! 


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